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Father John Misty at First Avenue

22 May

Father John Misty

A note to anyone looking to hit on Josh Tillman – don’t misuse the word “literally,” or he’ll work it into a bitter, biting, hilarious tune about the proclivities of the women he sleeps with. Also, don’t shout “Free Bird” (you shouldn’t anyway) because that will prompt a wry line of questioning – “What is that? Is that some sort of regional, local thing?” And if you yell at him to take off his shirt, he’ll turn it into a bashful existential crisis and then tease you some more. Which is exactly what we want from him.

The Father John Misty show at First Avenue on Tuesday night was every bit the louche, writhing, self-deprecating event that his local shows, TV appearances and Coachella stream has built up. Tillman is a glorious country-folk antihero, Bill Hicks with a guitar and a razor wit attached to his 21st century malaise. The set opened with the one-two-three punch of “Funtimes in Babylon”, “Only Son of the Ladiesman” and “I’m Writing a Novel” and ended with bass-crushing version of “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” covering the full Fear Fun record and kept the sold out crowd hanging off his untucked shirttails throughout.

Which just begs the question – what happens next for Tillman? With an encore that included the solo burn on vacuous groupies, a rip-roaring, note-perfect rendition of The Beatles’ “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” and the unreleased “I Love You, Honeybear” Tillman could definitely release another Father John Misty record, but maybe something else would take better advantage of all his talents. A variety show host, a traveling circus barker, a documentary series on greasy spoons across America, an introductory course to continental philosophy and clinical psychology? Whatever it is, just keep a mic and a camera on that man, and let our hips pop along.

Father John Misty at First Avenue [SNIPPET] from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

Throwback bonus: Tillman as the feckless id to Robin Pecknold’s superego in Fleet Foxes, from August 2009.

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